The Absurd and Outrageous Animations of Terry Gilliam

Brazil director Terry Gilliam turns 71-years-old today, and we thought it was just as good a time as any to take a look back at the filmmaker’s beginnings as an animator — a career that established Gilliam’s outrageous sense of humor and cut-out style, but has never taken a back seat to his live-action films amongst fans. Gilliam found his footing as a strip cartoonist for Help! magazine. He eventually made his way to children’s television before joining the legendary comedic troupe, Monty Python. With little money and time, the 12 Monkeys director found himself working intuitively, evoking the stream-of-conscious, surreal style he became known for. His ability to turn the mundane on its head using low-fi materials to invoke the unexpected was his trademark. “The whole point of animation to me is to tell a story, make a joke, express an idea. The technique itself doesn’t really matter. Whatever works is the thing to use. That’s why I use cut-out. It’s the quickest and easiest form of animation I know,” Gilliam once told viewers on Bob Godfrey’s Do-It-Yourself Animation Show in 1974. Past the break, take a walk through Gilliam’s history as an animator. Let us know your favorites below.

The Miracle of Flight

Although it looks like a Monty Python animation, 1974’s The Miracle of Flight was actually a side project of the director’s that detailed the twisted adventures of man seeking flight. When jumping off cliffs and flapping “wings” didn’t help, Gilliam posits that man sought the assistance of birds, and eventually became guinea pigs in the quest for air travel when a 1643 king pushed men off a tower to their deaths. By the advent of airplanes, man still couldn’t get it right. The animation presents one of many off-the-cuff absurdities that Gilliam became famous for.